EU Launches Timely Whistleblower Tool For Sanctions

March 9, 2022
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The European Commission has rolled out a whistleblower tool to facilitate the reporting of possible sanctions violations as its new rules against Russia and Belarus become law.

The European Commission has rolled out a whistleblower tool to facilitate the reporting of possible sanctions violations as its new rules against Russia and Belarus become law.

As the EU, and other allies, roll out unprecedented levels of sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, civil servants in Brussels have published, in a timely fashion, their new platform to help violations in the trading bloc be confronted and prevented.

The tool was, in fact, announced before relations soured with Russia, having originally been proposed in January 2021.

The European Commission proposed to “set up a dedicated system to allow for anonymous reporting of sanctions’ evasion, including whistleblowing” to promote “the uniform implementation and enforcement of the EU's own sanctions”.

The commission’s online sanctions portal is a secure platform, and whistleblowers from around the world can use it to anonymously report past, current or planned EU sanctions violations.

If people are aware of possible violations of any EU sanctions, the commission’s portal offers a method for them to report.

This information can relate, for example, to facts concerning sanctions violations, their circumstances and the individuals, companies and third countries that may be involved in the sanctions breach.

If the commission considers that the information provided by the whistleblower is credible, it will share the anonymised report and any additional information gathered during the internal inquiry with the national competent authorities in the relevant member state.

The commission may subsequently provide further assistance to the investigation, as needed, and periodically follow up on the investigation until a conclusion is reached.

The European Commission has had a focus on improving whistleblower protections for some time.

In 2019, it proposed the Whistleblowing Directive, which has now passed the deadline to have been transposed into national law by the 27 member states.

When the deadline for the rules to be in place had passed, Transparency International found that only five countries had adopted new whistleblower protection legislation to transpose the directive: Denmark; Sweden; Portugal; Malta; and Lithuania.

The directive offers protection to employees who report their concerns about dismissals, degradation and various forms of discrimination in the workplace. It also affords protection to new groups of people, notably job applicants and former employees, as well as supporters of whistleblowers and journalists.

The laws apply to businesses with 50 or more employees in the EU, but the deadline for compliance depends on the size of each business' headcount in the EU.

For example, businesses with 250 or more employees were in scope as of December 17, 2021, whereas those with 50-249 will need to be compliant by December 17, 2023.

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